Category Archives: Other Reviews
Using the angle of Batman as a political figure sometimes backtracks on itself but also playing idealism and former foes against certain ideas of purity sometimes backfire as well. In “Batman – Detective Comics Vol. 7: Anarky” [Brian Buccellato/DC Comics/176pgs], the main protagonist actually personifies a certain element of freedom that Batman aspires to but does it with vicious abandon and wanton savagery. In opening up the city with “V” type masks, this vision of Anarky simply invites death and not a sense of life. Bruce Wayne, by comparison, has to accept a texture of sacrifice in terms of realizing that no matter how much good he has accomplished he will always be seen by some as the bad guy. The dark snow tinged elements of light mixed with the greens and burnt yellows show a continued essence of twilight reflecting a certain transient state of mind. The reflection of old foes and how their own psychosis functions backwards on them informs this story in the visage of Mad Hatter who seemingly only wants to find his Alice despite the fact that his actions leave him shivering in his own misery in a cell. The same can be said of The Riddler in “Future’s End” which uses the art to even more skewed perception. The Riddler has become both a pawn and an abuser of Gotham’s goodwill but in adhering to his own sense of blurred conscience in not wanting to be outdone, The Riddler is brought to his death. The idea through all the stories in this volume is a fear or admonishment of mortality. Even the beginning story “Terminal” uses this as a trigger with a plane being crashed through Gotham Terminal with a disease infecting all on board. Both a police captain and Batman are exposed but it is the darker black market element that permeates with connections to the Middle East and Russia that give this story a real sense of dread. The art is bathed in shadow with a grand sense of foreboding where the features aren’t exceptionally distinct but dreamlike enough to make one realize the viciousness hoarding below. This, in a way, makes this one of the more visceral graphic novels of late.
By Tim Wassberg
The idea of a boy built of atomic energy but looking back on an era gone past is always an interesting reflection, especially if the actual artistry was done within times of war. Examining “Astro Boy – Omnibus – Vol 2” [Osamu Tezuka/Dark Horse/680pgs], these parallels are definitely intrinsic. A lot has to do with the progression of technology and the idea of assured destruction across the board.One story involves a time machine and the reflexive nature of how robotics will be the downfall of man due to automation. Another reflects how humans, even those with cybernetic implants, still see the robots themselves as slaves. “The Ghost Manufacturing Machine”, one of the stories, is an interesting dichotomy on Nazi Germany and Hitler but also about the exchange of scientists to help propel scientific breakthroughs. This is an interesting perception because in the late 50s Japan could likely see this exchange within the post Allied powers after World War II. It examines how Astro Boy defines progress with the scientists: the light and the dark which ultimately leads to sacrifice. “Crucifix Island”, another story, again examines the ideal of subterfuge with a secret uranium mining operation (again a play to the atomic age) and an angle that points to the black market (via gangsters). Of course, Astro Boy represents the purity of the right which again retains the idea of robots rebelling against a notion of slavery. “Space Snow Leopard”, on that same thought process, is again a metaphor on advanced technology, specifically the idea of an electromagnetic pulse since the leopard of the story “takes energy away”. “The Artificial Sun” again examines an adventure story with an interesting take on atomic energy. In this case, a device can incinerate everything around it (much like a nuclear weapon) but if used properly is a great source of energy. Another interesting thing about Osamu Tezuka, the author, is that in this volume we see him talking to his characters and himself which leads him to explain how sometimes his editors require him to cut down page count causing the abridgement of stories. The big anthology in this Omnibus is “Once Upon A Time” which is a long form story which explains some aspects of a Shonen printing Tezuka did back in the 50s. In trying to save a crashing alien from harm, Astro Boy is thrown back in time 50 years. We see his interaction with an alien locust woman who came to the earth just to have fun. He explains that being alone, lost in time, they need money and a place to live. He must keep his identity as a robot secret even as he comes into contact with the scientists that eventually create him. It is a prequel of sorts exploring the sociological and psychological implementation of robots and the reflective law. The specific use of Baro as a robot programmed to destroy himself to test an H-Bomb again shows a inherent fear on both sides. Later on with Vietnam and even the story of the butler robot Chiruchiru, Tezuka interestingly makes a perception on a current war (he wrote it in the early 60s) as well as race bias. At different points, Astro Boy is placed in stasis but it shows his personality consistency through the years and notions of conscience. This volume is interesting to look at in terms of its breath and length but also some of the themes and touchstones it explores.
By Tim Wassberg
The ideas with the world of Hellboy revolve around identity and understanding who we truly are in the scheme of things. Red always had trouble with that. One of the things that “Hellboy II” as a movie did introduce with a definite bit of structure was “Kraus” who was the spirit that seemed to live in an ether. The interesting thing about him was his undeniable sense of optimism despite the fact that he was literally formless. The intention of “B.P.R.D: Hell On Earth Vol. 12 – Metamorphosis” [Mike Mignola & John Arcudi/Dark Horse/144pgs] has Kraus put to the test as he leads some marines in this story to take out a village hoarding an enemy creature. When one of the marines doesn’t agree with his tactics he is shot by the opposing side and Kraus takes over his body using the dead carcass to get the mission done. He doesn’t make the connection of the emotional problem of this and because of this action becomes disassociated from his team. Liz, the on/off girlfriend of Hellboy, tries to make him see that this is something he has to come to terms with because he, in essence, cannot die whereas others can. In order to show some semblance of empathy, he frees himself from his tomb-like suit only to find things are bad on all sides. He then tries to take on the guise of a robot form but starts to lose sight again of himself until one of his men is killed. Kraus, like Pinocchio, wants to be real because there is a sense of risk…a sense of loss. He seems to feel only emptiness in his current state. This seems to be related in the art. There is a sense of distance and isolation in the cells which is aided by muted oranges and grays. But, in the greater mythology, it gives a subtle yet pointed look into the issues of one of the most integral and mysterious members of the B.P.R.D. team.
By Tim Wassberg